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I am currently in London, and the Underground has been kind enough to repeat this warning numerous times:

Please mind the gap between the train and the platform!

Having heard the same phrase over and over again, I couldn't help trying to translate it to Latin. (I wonder if there's a name for this kind of disorder.) I have tried translating, but I am not convinced by what I arrived at. (I did arrive at the correct station, though.) I would like to ask for an overall opinion on the translation and particularly on the translations of two words: "gap" and "platform".

I got the impression that "please" is probably best left out for an idiomatic Latin translation; in Latin it is much more appropriate to skip the pleasantries and cut to the chase than in English. There is also a separate question about "please" in Latin. The most suitable word for "gap" I could find was spatium, but I'm not sure at all whether it's appropriate for this kind of thing. The word "platform" is way more confusing; I found a list of candidates, but I couldn't tell which, if any, is appropriate here.

Here is my attempt at a translation:

Cave spatium inter tramen et aggerem/crepidinem/pulpitum/suggestum!

Any feedback, especially on "platform", would make a welcome answer.

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Platform: I vote for agger because, among other things, it describes an elevation above a surface; a causeway through a swamp; and an elevation before a trench. For me, these all capture the sense of a platform elevated to provide protection from and a pathway over something underfoot (in your case, railway tracks).

Gap: I have three suggestions:

  • hiatus often used of cracks in the earth after an earthquake (Pliny, Nat. Hist., 2.82) or heavy rain (Cicero, On Duties, 3.9) or indeed the pits of hell (Claudian, Rape of Proserpine, 2.259) thus something you can fall down into.

  • fossa variously a ditch, a trench, and a gutter, all elongated spaces which you can fall down into.

  • fovea strictly speaking a small pit, especially for trapping wild animals but also came to mean a pitfall and so I thought this covered the literal sense of something you can fall down into and the figurative sense of a danger.

  • 2
    Thanks! Comparing hiare and fodere, I find hiatus to be more appropriate than fossa. You make a strong case for agger, and I'm now leaning towards it. – Joonas Ilmavirta Nov 3 '17 at 9:15
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ON "PLATFORM":

Crepidinem seems most suitable for 3 reasons:

  • crepidinem is the most visually interesting in English

    This assessment is, of course, subjective, but aesthetics are subjective, and a major factor in word choice in translation. (In my case, this term makes me think of delicious words like crepuscular, incites curiosity as to the meaning, and sticks in the memory;)

  • crepidinem is the most neutral term, not carrying confusing connotations

    • Pulpitum would be recognized by many as the origin of the English "pulpit", which is a type of platform, but carries the wrong connotations (religious) in this mundane context.

    • Aggerem, by contrast, would likely not be recognized as a platform-ey word by English speakers. For those recognizing the root of "aggregation", it also carries the wrong connotations because "aggregate" indicates a group that forms a whole, which the emphasis on multiplicity to distinguish from undifferentiated wholes.

    • Suggestum is also sub-optimal because in English it carries a false cognate related to "suggestion", but no connotations related to a platform.

  • crepidinem has dual meanings, with the second related to an edge

    I. Prop., a ground, basis, foundation, pedestal
    II. Transf., an elevated enclosure, a high projection, an edge, brim, brink, etc.
    SOURCE: Charlton T. Lewis, Charles Short, A Latin Dictionary


ON "GAP":

If not restricted to the proposed words, I'd favor:

chasma because many English speakers would instantly recognize the root of "chasm" and understand the reference.

abyssus would be my alternate choice if I was wanting to be more playful (abyss is more dire than chasm per it's underworld associations, and the warning comes at the risk of one's life. One of the uses of abyssus is "3. The place of the dead";)

By contrast, spatium is neutral in meaning, and does not carry associations of danger.

  • 1
    Thanks for the answer and the update! Neutrality is a good starting point here, so crepido and spatium are perhaps the best words (unless someone else finds something more suitable). Imagine if they said "Mind the abyss!" in English... I reformatted your answer slightly. If I seem to have misinterpreted your intention or you don't otherwise like it, feel free to roll back or re-edit. – Joonas Ilmavirta Nov 1 '17 at 20:55
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Ecce apud Stationem Segedunensis in Britannia exemplum hodiernum unius vocabulorum quæ petis:

Libellum apud Stationem Segedunensis

Præsumo Romanos Antiquos libellum reliquisse, ergo auctoritatem supremam gerit.

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For “platform”, there's a high-profile precedent (the first place I looked actually): “crepido” is used in Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis. The sixth chapter, which in English is The Journey from Platform Nine and Three-quarters, is titled by Peter Needham as (Caput Sextem) Iter a Crepidine Novem cum Tribus Partibus.

‘hamaxostichum undecima hora abiturum a crepidine novem cum tribus partibus modo conscendam,’ legit.

matertera et a avunculus oculos fixerunt.

'a qua crepidine?'

'a crepidine novem cum tribus partibus.'

noli garrire,' inquit Avunculus Vemon, 'non est crepido novem cum tribus partibus.'

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I'd suggest lacuna for "gap", it goes specially well with agger for "platform" because a lacuna can be a pit filled with water.

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